When she started medical school, Dr. Alisa Lee-Sherick never thought she’d become a researcher. Then she spent a semester working in a laboratory.
"It just clicked for me,” says Dr. Lee-Sherick. "I realized I could have a big impact on patient outcomes. Instead of following the cookbook, I could make a new recipe."
Dr. Lee-Sherick went on to complete the Pediatric Scientist Development Program at Children’s Colorado, which allowed her to pursue research while completing her fellowship in pediatric oncology. Today, with the support of philanthropy, Dr. Lee-Sherick is applying her knowledge in a laboratory on the Anschutz Medical Campus, where she works to find trailblazing treatments for pediatric cancer.
Dr. Lee-Sherick’s research primarily focuses on immunotherapy, a promising new type of treatment that harnesses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. She’s currently studying ways to energize the white blood cells known as T-cells, making them more inclined to attack cancer cells.
Philanthropy has become increasingly critical for physician-scientists like Dr. Lee-Sherick who are a few years into their research careers.
"I can’t emphasize enough how important philanthropy is to our research," she said. "With our current federal funding environment, there simply isn’t enough money to bring new therapies to our patients. Philanthropy allows us to pursue cutting-edge ideas, which can result in novel treatments that no one has thought of before."
Dr. Lee-Sherick was recently awarded $25,000 from the Tanabe-Bobrow Family Young Investigator Award Endowed Fund. Established by donors Arlene Bobrow and Charles Tanabe, the fund supports early- and mid-career researchers at Children’s Colorado.
"Their gift is helping to fund the data I need to apply for bigger federal and foundation grants," says Dr. Lee-Sherick. "Having solid preliminary data increases the likelihood of getting these larger grants."
A funding boost from one of these grants could have significant implications for Dr. Lee-Sherick’s research – and for children fighting cancer.
"If I can take away even one cycle of chemo, that would be very beneficial," says Dr. Lee-Sherick. "Our patients are living longer than ever before, so anything I can do to decrease toxic side effects is a primary focus for me."